Bass, Caruso each express optimism as they await results

Rick Caruso and Karen Bass on Wednesday reiterated their optimism about eventual victory in the Los Angeles mayoral race. Both said they wouldn’t let the slowly developing table get in the way of their plans for a quick transition to the city’s top job.

The lead in the contest changed hands several times after polls concluded Tuesday, with Caruso just ahead on Wednesday morning, the latest update from election officials. But analysts said the race was far too close to call, with up to half of the ballots yet to be tabulated.

The expanded count left Los Angeles in a state of suspended animation, with some political activists saying they were too nervous to contemplate the outcome and others searching for new data.

“It feels a bit like the whole city is in limbo,” said Robin Rudisill, a Venice resident and coastal issues activist. “We are so excited for someone to take charge and do something about this crisis we are going through. These are such extreme times. And we must take strong, big action. But for now we’re just waiting.”

When Caruso visited Langer’s deli west of downtown on Wednesday morning, he told guests and reporters that he felt he could ultimately prevail. Though he desperately wants to be mayor, the 63-year-old businessman said he has to wait like everyone else in LA

“I wish it could happen sooner,” he said. “But they have to verify signatures, that’s just the process.”

Mayoral candidate Rick Caruso speaks to customers before having lunch at Langer's Deli.

Mayoral candidate Rick Caruso speaks to customers before having lunch at Langer’s Deli in MacArthur Park in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

With the next mayor scheduled to be sworn in on Dec. 12, Caruso said he intends to be prepared.

He told reporters he had instructed Areen Ibranossian, a senior campaign aide, to contact the city’s chief administrator’s staff for information on the budget and other issues.

Caruso also named Ibranossian, a former chief of staff to Council member Paul Krekorian, as his chief of staff – and suggested he could fill the post in his administration if elected. The presence of the veteran city hall clerk in Caruso’s camp suggested that the candidate, while insisting on the value of his “outsider” perspective, understands the benefit of having aides who understand the massive city bureaucracy.

“I’m going to inherit a budget,” Caruso said. “We need to know how we’re going to use this budget.” In his last days of campaigning, he had told a group of businesspeople on Skid Row that he wanted to show the public quickly that there was a new culture of service in the city government — including faster planning and zoning reviews – enforced.

But much of what the mayor can achieve will also depend on the city council. A potential left-leaning council could raise the challenges for a new mayor, particularly Caruso, a politically moderate.

Hugo Soto-Martinez, who has a good chance of defeating incumbent councilor Mitch O’Farrell for a Hollywood-territory seat, highlighted the potential friction after his own visit to Langer’s Deli on Wednesday.

“We’ll see what happens with the mayor’s race. But I think we’re going to have a very new progressive block,” Soto-Martinez said, “and I think [Caruso] will have some challenges ahead.”

While Bass made no public appearances on Wednesday, her campaign released a statement expressing her optimism.

“We are pleased with these initial numbers and expect even more support for our campaign build as more reports are released, as we did in June,” said Sarah Leonard Sheahan, the candidate’s communications director. “We also look forward to rolling up our sleeves and bringing to market our urgent homelessness, public safety and affordability solutions.”

Karen Bass with supporters at her election night event in Hollywood.

Karen Bass with supporters at her election night event Tuesday at the Hollywood Palladium.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The campaign promised that “Karen Bass will be ready to push us forward on day one.” Like her opponent, Bass had spoken out about some of the issues she wanted to face in the final days of the race. She reiterated that her main focus will be on homelessness and reiterated her pledge to immediately declare a state of emergency on the matter.

The 11-year-old House Member said she was particularly concerned about the cancellation of a federal program that had helped the city house the homeless in hotels.

Bass, 69, said she wants to extend this program. “On day one,” Bass said, “we will identify the most difficult camps and house those people.”

One voter who understood the concern raised by the days-long vote count was Los Angeles Unified School Board Vice President Nick Melvoin, who waited several days in June for enough votes to come in to give him confidence that his race would be successful would not require a runoff.

After attending Bass’ election night party at the Hollywood Palladium on Tuesday, Melvoin clicked on the County Registrar Recorder’s website until after 3 a.m. for the latest updates on the mayor’s race.

He said officials are more likely to want to work but often find that a delayed election result means “nobody can be paying attention. Everyone is on hold.”

Bass advisors and supporters were encouraged by the way the June primary results unfolded. The congresswoman trailed Caruso by 5 percentage points on election night, only to take the lead a week later as late mail-in ballots were tabulated. She eventually finished more than 7 percentage points ahead of Caruso.

Caruso supporters insisted the primary voting patterns would not necessarily apply this time around, as initial returns on Tuesday and Wednesday showed no clear pattern for either candidate.

Paul Mitchell, a political data expert who followed the race closely, said he “didn’t see anything really striking to suggest the remaining ballots were being polarized one way or the other.”

With 493,000 votes tabulated as of Wednesday morning, Mitchell said that might account for only about half of the total ballots in the final mayoral count.

That means candidates and their supporters have to be patient, Mitchell said.

“You can remain calm. Or they can freak out. They can do whatever they want,” Mitchell said. “It won’t change anything.” Bass, Caruso each express optimism as they await results

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